NASA | GSFC | STScI | HubbleSite | 2020 Mar 19
Using the unique capabilities of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers has discovered the most energetic outflows ever witnessed in the universe. They emanate from quasars and tear across interstellar space like tsunamis, wreaking havoc on the galaxies in which the quasars live.This is an illustration of a distant galaxy with an active quasar at its center. A quasar
emits exceptionally large amounts of energy generated by a supermassive black hole
fueled by infalling matter. Using the unique capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope,
astronomers have discovered that blistering radiation pressure from the vicinity of the
black hole pushes material away from the galaxy's center at a fraction of the speed of
light. The "quasar winds" are propelling hundreds of solar masses of material each year.
This affects the entire galaxy as the material snowplows into surrounding gas and dust.
Credits: NASA, ESA and J. Olmsted (STScI)
Quasars are extremely remote celestial objects, emitting exceptionally large amounts of energy. Quasars contain supermassive black holes fueled by infalling matter that can shine 1,000 times brighter than their host galaxies of hundreds of billions of stars.
As the black hole devours matter, hot gas encircles it and emits intense radiation, creating the quasar. Winds, driven by blistering radiation pressure from the vicinity of the black hole, push material away from the galaxy's center. These outflows accelerate to breathtaking velocities that are a few percent of the speed of light. ...
The quasar winds snowplow across the galaxy's disk. Material that otherwise would have formed new stars is violently swept from the galaxy, causing star birth to cease. Radiation pushes the gas and dust to far greater distances than scientists previously thought, creating a galaxy-wide event.
As this cosmic tsunami slams into interstellar material, the temperature at the shock front spikes to billions of degrees, where material glows largely in X-rays, but also widely across the light spectrum. Anyone witnessing this event would see a brilliant celestial display. ...
HST/COS Observations of Quasar Outflows in the 500–1050 Å Rest Frame:
- The Most Energetic Outflows in the Universe and Other Discoveries ~ Nahum Arav et al
- The Most Energetic Quasar Outflow Measured to Date ~ Xinfeng Xu et al
- Four Similar Outflows in 2MASS J1051+1247 with Enough Energy
to be Major Contributors to AGN Feedback ~ Timothy R. Miller et al
- The Largest Broad Absorption Line Acceleration ~ Xinfeng Xu et al
- Richness of Physical Diagnostics and Ionization Potential-dependent
Velocity Shift in PKS J0352-0711 ~ Timothy R. Miller et al
- Wide, Energetic Outflows in SDSS J0755+2306 ~ Xinfeng Xu et al